In Italy fiber is fibra

Laser is laser in any language

The side-wheel ferry, The Piedmont, glides across Lake Maggiore on a glorious mid-summer day in Lombardy, Italy. Just ahead, off the coast of Stressa, is Isola Bella, one of the Borromeo Islands, a small rocky outcropping completely covered by a palace and magnificent gardens that dates to 1671.

The plan is to enjoy a Sunday afternoon touring the island and perhaps finding that perfect photo-op to decorate this page. What I didn’t reckon on was a misunderstanding about ferry schedules brought about by my inability to read Italian. I thought it listed this boat as stopping at Isola Bella. But as we left the dock in Arona, my rereading of the schedule seemed to show no stop at the island, and, worse, only one alternate stop, the next one at Angera, would allow me to change ferries to get to my destination.

As the ferry approached the dock I was emphatically told to move away from the gangplank, even though I tried to explain, in English, what I wanted to do. I was shunted aside, and, after a very brief stop, we were off to continue the lake cruise, on a boat that would only pass by my desired destination. All wasn’t lost, however, because I enjoyed a lovely five-course meal on-board as we passed some remarkable scenery including the snow-covered Alps, all on a picture-perfect day.

I’m actually here in Italy to visit several companies, mainly Finsomac and several of its customers who are the subject of a feature in this issue (see page 22). My curiosity has to do with recent promotions of the fiber laser as a substitute for CO2 lasers in flat-sheet cutting applications, especially in job shops.

Fortunately, for this part of the trip I have the services of a good friend and fellow journalist, Dr. Antonio Vendramini, who shares the same interest in prospects for fiber lasers in the fabricated-metal-products industry. Antonio assists me with translation when I interview business owners who are not fluent in English.

Those who know me can regale you with anecdotes about my traveling in a bubble I call Dave’s World. It’s a little mini-environment where I only hear English. It works like this, no matter where I am on the globe; my ear is tuned to English. Yes I do understand and speak French, and I understand some words in German, Japanese, and Italian, but when I travel it’s English I hear so I am reasonably sure someone will eventually speak some English and that will suffice. Of course, I miss some boats, mistake some items on menus, miss some canceled trains, and occasionally get street locations mixed up, but without these you wouldn’t be entertained reading this page.

Mind you, I have the greatest admiration for those who speak fluently in more than their native tongue, such as my friend Antonio. And I especially applaud people who, during plant visits, adapt to my lack of skills by speaking, many times with difficulty, in English. They put me to shame, but not enough to start a crash course to learn the language of the next country I visit. After all it might be Kyrgyzstan.

If you think I am still smarting from not getting to Isola Bella you’re wrong, especially when I later learned that the boat schedule showed my intended boat didn’t stop at the island on Sunday anyway.

David A. Belforte
belforte@pennwell.com

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